Sportspeople Flock to Merino Outdoor Clothing
“Nature’s Cool Again”
Wellington, New Zealand
Feb 9, 2009
Studies have shown that wearing sports clothing made from merino fiber helps regulate temperature during exercise, putting less strain on the body. These scientific findings back up a growing number of anecdotal reports about merino’s ability to improve athletic performance.
Merino outdoor clothing was pioneered by New Zealand company Icebreaker when it launched in 1994. Icebreaker sustainable merino apparel is now revolutionizing the outdoor industry, which has been dominated by synthetic clothing for many years.
Sports clothing companies such as Nike and Adidas introduced the world to microfiber fabrics that were lightweight, non-itch and easy-care. The catch was that they were also clammy, smelly, highly flammable and poor insulators. And, just like plastic grocery bags, polyester lives on in landfills for generations.
Icebreaker merino is catching the imagination of a new generation of sportspeople because it combines the best qualities of traditional wool and synthetics in a fabric that’s renewable, biodegradable and sustainably produced.
The fine alpine merino used in Icebreaker garments is insulating, breathable, and buffers the body against the extremes of heat and cold. It’s odor-resistant, long-lasting and – unlike traditional wool - easy-care, non-itch and soft against the skin.
Many scientific studies have demonstrated the advantages that merino fiber has over synthetic fabrics.
Research by the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, compared the differences between the performance of polyester interlock, plated wool/polyester, and wool single jersey garments used for outdoor activities.
The study (published in the journal Ergonomics of 14 November, 2007) looked at outdoor sportspeople who needed clothing that would keep them warm and dry, preventing them from suffering from hypothermia. The researchers said the choice of clothing worn in sports such as adventure racing played a very important part in race strategy – for comfort as well as function.
“Results of the current study show the wool single jersey garment would be recommended for a base layer worn during this type of sport, as it performed best in hot and cold conditions and perceptions of the wearers indicated it to be the most comfortable,” the researchers concluded.
The researchers also found that when people exercise for shorter periods of time, such as going for a walk or a run, “again, wool single jersey would be expected to provide the least compromise to the thermo-regulatory system”. Put simply, people working out in the heat take longer to start sweating when they’re wearing wool garments such as Icebreaker merino.
Scientists have also researched the exceptional odor-repelling qualities of wool. A study by researchers at New Zealand’s Wool Research Organisation found that “the odor generated on wool socks in active use was significantly less objectionable than other fibers,” while further research by the University Otago found that “fabrics constructed from wool exhibited less odour after wear than polyester fabrics of similar weight and construction”.
Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon says the growing weight of scientific evidence about the performance benefits of merino fibre explains why so many sportspeople are making the transition from man-made fabric to the more eco-friendly apparel.
“I’m not surprised that Icebreaker merino fiber is proving so popular – it’s easy on people, and easy on the environment,” he says. “Artificial fibers have dominated the outdoor sports apparel market for decades. It’s about time that nature was cool again.”
Launched in 1994, Icebreaker was the first company in the world to develop a merino fiber layering system for the outdoors. It was also the first outdoor apparel company in the world to source merino directly from growers, a system it began in 1997. There are now 10 distinct pure merino fabrics in the Icebreaker system, covering underwear, mid layer, and outerwear. Icebreaker is sold in more than 2,000 stores in 24 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Icebreaker uses only pure merino hand-picked from 120 high country stations in the country's Southern Alps to create edgy outdoor clothing that combines nature's work with human technology and design. The company is committed to sustainability, ethical manufacturing and animal welfare. In 2008 the company launched “Icebreaker Baacode,” a pioneering supply chain transparency and traceability program. Each Icebreaker includes a unique Baacode, which enables customers to trace the garment online from rearing the sheep through to each stage of the supply chain process.
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